Arber is the project name that I will be using, from now on, to release my semi-classical compositions. These are the pieces that I make in the rough style of Max Richter, Christopher Tignor, and Harold Budd. If there is a theme for the project, it is the use of traditional acoustic instruments like the piano or a string section, and processing them through the kind of sonic manipulation I use in my shoegaze/Dream Pop work.
This is a strand of my work that is distinct from both my songs (which are released under my own name Daniel Land, or as Daniel Land & The Modern Painters), and the ambient material I release (usually under the name riverrun) - but which has always been present in one way or another. My earliest compositions, in fact, were this kind of thing - all written on the piano, long before I thought of myself as a guitarist or singer.
The first Arber album, My Sad Captains, was released in 2012. Most of the tracks were written around 2010, but at least one track dates from as far back as 1997, when I was still in school. The album was recorded in snatches over the period between 2004 and 2012, in various studios around the country, with the help of various friends including my earliest collaborator Ian McGinn, and the ambient legend Bing Satellites.
My Sad Captains was initially released under my own name, but in retrospect that was something of a mistake. The album has no songs, so it's not really a "Daniel Land" album. And it's not really a riverrun album either. My Sad Captains has now been re-classified and re-released under the name Arber, and is available from the new Arber Bandcamp page (see below) and all the major digital distributors.
In early 2017, I was commissioned by Expedia to write a generative classical composition for their World In Tune campaign. The chance to work with entirely classical instrumentation again (the first time since some of my earliest teenage compositions) opened a lot of doors for me, and in the time since I've created many other works in a similar vein - catching little pieces here and there whenever I needed a break from my other, more demanding song work. That material is coalescing as a second full-length Arber album, which should be released some time in 2019.
For now you can listen to My Sad Captains below, or add it to your collection as a name-your-price download.
Album essay by Thom Jopling
Not content with spending the majority of 2011 working on the second Daniel Land & The Modern Painters album (The Space Between Us, released on Club AC30 records in May 2012), releasing a double-album (La Mer) under his ambient pseudonym riverrun, or working on a whole host of collaborative projects, it turns out that Daniel Land has also found time to record a solo album of exquisitely essayed, bejewelled piano instrumentals, which are now set for release as a limited edition album, My Sad Captains.
Highly reminiscent of Harold Budd's’s collaborative albums with Brian Eno, the pointillist “Gynopédies” of Erik Satie, or the delicate piano sketches of Max Richter, the 14 tracks presented here occupy a uniquely personal space, with track titles such as “Bennyjack”, “Boy In White Converse”, and “He Was The More Beautiful” bringing together the unlikely threads of neo-classical composition and gay autobiography. Daniel’s track titles link the pieces to classic works of literature by Andrew Holleran, Joseph Olshan, and James Joyce, and the album’s title is a lift - via Shakespeare - from the classic gay poet Thom Gunn.
The album was recorded at intervals over the last eight years, and includes sessions engineered by the prolific ambient composer Bing Satellites. Though many of the pieces were composed and recorded in one pass, putting the album together was a piecemeal process. The starkly beautiful “Last August” is a case in point; as Daniel says, the original 2006 recording was "The first and only time I’ve played that track. But I’ve been working on the sound of it ever since. It’s taken about five years of work, on and off, to get the atmosphere of these pieces just right”.
The release of a set of solo piano recordings at this stage is the latest left-turn in what has already been a highly eclectic career. Since 2007, Daniel has recorded two albums and a series of EPs as Daniel Land & The Modern Painters (on the esteemed labels Sonic Cathedral and Club AC30) and a 7” single of songs mixed by German electronica genius Ulrich Schnauss – releases which won plaudits from Rob Da Bank at BBC Radio 1, Mark Radcliffe at Radio 2, and Elbow's Guy Garvey at Radio 6. Concurrently, Daniel has been releasing ambient albums under the name riverrun and (along with Ulrich Schnauss) joined the recently reformed Engineers, whose track "Home" is used as the theme for HBO's series "Big Love".
That he has managed to release such a variety of work in the five years since he first appeared on the scene (whilst also contributing songwriting, production or remixing skills to artists as varied as The Steals, Luga and Air Cav) is testament to his energy and the diversity of his talent. He is an artist that, in the words of BBC Radio 1’s Rob Da Bank, “You can’t help but feel the late John Peel would have loved”.